Tag Archives: Nuclear deal

Western Asia in 2020s: risk of major war or opportunity of Regional Integration?


The biggest opportunity in this decade for Western Asia (WA), the crucial area for the stability of the world, is a great bargain between Shia crescent and the Sunni world, for a WA integration based on a Collective Security Community and a Free Trade Integration. The region has homogeneity in religion even if heterogeneity in ethnicity, but also Europe has the same characteristics. The area has also a history of wars, mostly proxy wars recently, and great power influence and invasions (again similarly to Europe). Finally, this part of the world is economically similar with natural resources, first of all oil, and economic stable growth. Therefore is not unthinkable that Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the rest of Arab States in the region (with the presence of Israel as a pivot state) might decide for a gradual regional integration, like Europe, but also Africa, Americas and Southeast Asia decided to do in the past.

There are two issues and two possible inputs for this path. The two issues are:

-In the last two decades the regional powers (first of all Iran, but also Turkey and Saudi Arabia) supported by global ones, competed for influence over the region, creating constant violence and instability, and there seems no to be a new strategic vision for a great bargain at the horizon.

-This great bargain can be possible only with an Iranian regime change (as no Ayatollah regime will accept Israel and a regional system without Israel, even if with a special status, will not be sustainable) and this could take more than one decade to happen.

The possible inputs toward this path are:

-An Israeli-Palestinian settlement (but the recent one proposed by US and Israel has not been accepted and the solution could be postponed for long time, until “facts on the ground” are reached)

-A EU/NATO[1] support after the Iraqi/Syrian proxy wars (but the recent Middle East Strategic Alliance, an “Arab NATO”, didn’t work out and EU and NATO will be busy crafting their new relationship this decade)

The biggest risk, on the opposite, is a great war during this decade between Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon on one side and Israel and the Arab world on the other (Turkey will try to stay out,  because of NATO alliance and Iranian border, but if will enter could probably stay with the Sunni side). This risk is high in this decade, given the increased elements that point towards an escalation, and the acceleration because of three more urgent threats at global level that should be treated soon (nuclear, climate and technological). These are the 4 crucial factors that support this risk:

-End of Iranian Nuclear Deal with the real concrete possibility that Iran gets nuclear power in the next couple of years. The Iran nuclear crisis of the early 2000s will be back, pushing military urgency.

-US Peace Plan for Israel-Palestine (rejected by Palestine, Iran but also Arab league) with consequent Israeli annexation of occupied territories inside West Bank after March elections.

-Recent escalation in violence between Iran and US, with the killing of Suleimani and the prospect of more hybrid[2] warfare against Al-Quds and other Iranian militias.

-West Asia never ending proxy wars (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, may be later also Lebanon) with interventions from Iran and Russia on one side and US and allies on the other, and Turkey moving between the two, with no sign to end soon this decade.

The two possibilities don’t exclude each other, actually a major war could precede the regional integration (as it has been in the past for Europe) and the current trends seem to show a path that points towards this risk. The role of US and Russia will be also determinant to push towards one of these paths, without excluding the Chinese alignments. As a recent Stratfor report argues, the 2020s will be a Multipolar decade, with shifting and fluid alliances. So, we’ll see what happens, as Trump always says.

[1] NATO should close its Mediterranean Dialogue after 26 years and create two new partnerships: North African Dialogue (with Maghreb region) and West Asia dialogue (with Levant region). NATO Istanbul Cooperation Initiative should be expanded to all countries of GCC.

[2] Hybrid warfare blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare (among state and non-state actors with proxies, militias etc.) and cyberwarfare with other methods, at economic level (with embargos) political level (with diplomatic tools, like proposing peace plans take it or leave it) and social level (with informational warfare, lawfare etc.)



Iranian nuclear deal: the clock of ISIS and its root, Wahhabism, have the “minutes counted” (i.e. few hours of life)


The consequences of bringing back Iran to the international community after 35 years cannot be foreseen right now. Israel and Saudi Arabia are not afraid of an Iranian bomb, but of a new leader in the Middle East apart themselves. If the right wing regime of Netanyahu in Israel and the Saudi regime in Saudi Arabia could become in the last decades more and more extreme in their philosophy and actions, it is because they could use the external ‘enemy’ as a factor of social cohesion. And because their possible rivals on the geopolitical chess were weak. It is the divide et impera, ‘divide and rule’ philosophy of the Roman Empire, that made the complexity of the region of the Middle East anarchic, chaotic and never able to integrate itself, since at least one hundred years, since the end of the Ottoman Empire. But these divisions sooner or later will have to give space to some alliances and unions, and the region one day will be united as Europe today. That day people will remember the 2015 as the start of the end of the chaos in the Middle East. It seems a far stretch now but if we deeply think and analyze the history and the politics of that region it doesn’t seem so impossible.

Diplomacy is back in the international relations, after decades of power politics, and this not only with Iran, but with Russia and Cuba too. Also for us, the political scientists, a new paradigm, more European than North American, might start to see the light in the international relations theory: mediations and negotiations as the only solutions to security dilemmas, anarchic system and mistrusting realist views. In particular two non-Arab countries of the Middle East could play a fundamental role for the stabilization and development of the area. In the future regional order of the Middle East Iran could be what Germany has been for Europe, the engine, and Turkey what France has been, the torch. When Iran and Turkey will finally understand that supporting each other is better than competing, that will create the leadership that the Middle East desperately need since one century. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries sooner or later will have to understand that their role is the bridge between Maghreb and Southwest Asia, the region to which they belong historically, geographically and ontologically, is not the Levant but North Africa. It is with their Arab brothers that they have to find a new Renaissance, starting with a renovated Arab League, a new economic integration and a new approach between religion and politics, instead of looking for spheres of influence in the Levant fighting with their competitors, in the Shia crescent.

At the domestic level they need to overcome the fixation in the Shari’atization of civic life and public policy and understand that democracy and emancipation is a natural development of human empowerment. They have good example in the Maghreb to follow, first of all Tunisia, but also Morocco. When the education and the globalization will increase in Gulf countries, together with the end of the oil blessing, on which bases the monarchies maintained their societies backwards, also the Saudis will have to find other ways for their legitimization respect to the Wahhabi sect. And some good Iranian military blow in the next few years (not nuclear fortunately since today) against the Salafist terrorism and may be also the countries backing it, will accelerate the process. But Saudi Arabia will do its process of democratization gradually, as Turkey and Iran already did one century ago. And even if Iranian people have been imprisoned by a religious and military elite that betrayed the ideals of the 1979 revolution (as everyone who hijack the revolutions, since the Bolshevik one in 1917 to the Arab Spring in 2011) also Iran will soon go towards a more modern democracy, as the cold war is ended and the Ayatollah regime finally starts to be out of touch with the contemporary world and with his people. That will be the moment in which also Israel will feel more safe. Today is the starting of this process. As the welcome back of China in 1979 after 30 years contributed to the stability in Asia, the new Iranian rapprochement will be a fundamental element for the stability in the Middle East in the XXI century.

ISIS and the rest of Jihadists will make more blood unfortunately, like yesterday with the poor students of the college in Kenya, but when the need of money, the request of weapons and the thirst of power will not be satisfied anymore, also the Jihadist threat to the world will be erased, as it has been done with the Soviet one. Iran will have its role in this, militarily and culturally, together with Turkey, when both countries will have walked also on their path to empower their democracies, going back to the ideals that at the beginning of XX century inspired their Constitutional revolutions. But for today we need to celebrate and be enthusiast, as the Iranian people on the streets. The prodigal son is back for this Good Friday. I am happy for Iran, for Israel and for the Middle East. I am happy also for China, Russia, the US and Europe, that learned to cooperate and mediate. I am happy that the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy today is an Italian diplomat, Federica Mogherini. Remembering how Berlusconi stupidly refused 10 years ago the Iranian offer to participate to the negotiation. And I am happy that Obama will not be remembered only because of being black. The American Congress will have to learn to be more humble in these last years of his mandate. The Norwegian Noble Committee had been farsighted as usual.

The US and Iran: a peace to end all wars?


The next few years will be of fundamental importance to the future of the Middle East, the ‘pivotal region’ for the US and world order in the XXI century, but this month could be the turning point. At the beginning of XX century nobody would have thought that Europe was going to have the worst first half century of its history, even if followed by probably the best second half century. Today it is difficult to imagine how will be the XXI century for the Middle East: could be catastrophic or surprisingly idyllic, but probably will be neither of one. Both historian and political scientists have difficulty to predict the future everywhere and in the Middle East even more: while the firsts today need to avoid easy analogies the latters need to build a new paradigm for understanding the current international system. In our era of globalization, complexity and constant mutation of the international system it is difficult to reach the goal of reducing the uncertainty of the future, and the Middle East is one of the most difficult regions for such objective.

Admittedly, the Middle East has always been one of the world’s crucial regions and, for the past several decades, for the United States as well. Notwithstanding a reported US “pivot” to Asia, the Obama administration has recently been pulled back into the Middle Eastern quagmire. This was already true after the dramatic events of 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq war; but it is even clearer today, in the context of the civil wars and the new terrorist groups that have been born since the Arab Spring. Faced with lesser domestic and political pressures during the last two years of his second administration, Obama is at a crossroad: will he end his mandate with some positive achievement that would confirm he deserved the Nobel peace prize and that his new approach to American foreign policy, based on dialogue and non-intervention, was real and not a rhetoric proposition? Will the Middle East be the region where he will show his skills of a transformational leader?

I think that even in a so called ‘post-American/post-Western’ world, the United States will still play a fundamental role as the ‘international leader’ in the Middle East. The future of the Middle East (as the future of the world) may well be post-American and post-Western but it will not become non-American and non-Western as the United States remains a crucial actor. But I also think that the US will not be able to play their role effectively without the support of new regional powers. This means that Israel and Saudi Arabia cannot remain the only countries that the US feel comfortable to cooperate with, and more partners and allies will be needed for the United States to recuperate the efficacy and legitimacy lost in Iraq, to help solve the Middle Eastern conflicts. More specifically, two other regional powers should be included by the US in the Middle East chessboard, in order to build in the future a ‘peace to end all wars’, to paraphrase the sentence of Wilson one century ago — two non-Arab Muslim countries that have millenary civilizations and recently re-emerged as significant regional powers: Iran and Turkey.

While the US and Iran have been bitter rivals in the Middle East for 34 years, their conflictual relationship is increasingly difficult to sustain. A possible rapprochement, announced with the recently-launched nuclear talks will not be easy, but will be possible. It will require, among other things, also to convince Israel that a deal will be sooner or later make, and that the case of a future nuclear Iran would be manageable, allowing Iran’s return to the international community but at the same time guaranteeing the protection of Israel. In order to reach this goal the US might need the support of other regional powers, including one – Turkey – that is a NATO ally and could become the second stronger US ally in the Middle East after Israel. Six years after Obama entered the White House he does not seem to have a clear strategy yet, not only because of the chaos in the Middle East but because the US finds it difficult to deal with a multipolar world, being much more at ease with the bipolar world of the Cold War. But if the US wants to retain its leadership and ‘soft power’ in the world needs to have a clear strategy and efficacy in implementing it, and the last two years of the Obama administration (with a majority of the Congress in the hand of Republican opposition) could force the President to take bold actions in this direction. The first of this bold actions should be a nuclear deal with Iran at the end of this month.

The nuclear issue is first, to be sure, but there are other issues too, related to stability and peace in the Middle East, which cannot be postponed much longer as time is running out, from the ISIS war to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The factors of mistrust have not changed between the US and Iran for 34 years, but Obama seemed to wish to abandon this road to nowhere. From his speeches in Cairo and Oslo (where he received the Nobel Peace Prize) in 2009 it took 5 years to arrive to the ‘Geneva interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear program’ in 2013, the first treaty between US and Iran in 34 years. But diplomacy needs time and patience. Will Obama be able to become the transformational leader that he wanted to be with the Iranian détente? Or will he fail to bend Iran allowing the crossing of the red line? This is the test for America in the nuclear deal with Iran. That is why a deal at the end of November is a must, as it could really start a positive rapprochement with spillover effects for the stability of the region, in the long term, that we cannot even imagine right now.